Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Post-November Optimism Crashes After Failure of ACA Repeal

April 4th, 2017, 5:03pm by Sam Wang

Light posting these last few months. Spring term is busy. But hey, there’s always the podcast, which is not bad.

Today I post this somewhat underappreciated survey quantity, the right-track/wrong-track question. It asks whether respondents think the United States is on the right track or wrong track.

This survey has been in consistently negative territory for a long time, but there are three notable breaks in that trend.

  1. The “wrong track” number started trending down slowly in early November, right around Election Day.
  2. The “right track number started moving up in January, around the time of the inauguration.
  3. Both trends reversed around the second week of March (see the vertical line).

It’s hard to pin exact dates on the transitions because it depends on the details of the Huffington Post’s smoothing and graphing rules. In fact, the vertical line above is set at March 7th…but that point on the graph could include survey data from later dates. I need to look into that.

The graph is approximately consistent with shifts in the national mood associated with Trump’s win and inauguration – followed by the bursting of a bubble in mid-March. What caused that break in the trend? One possibility is the death spiral of the American Health Care Act (i.e. Affordable Care Act repeal), which reached an end on March 24th. Certainly the writing was on the wall for at least a week. Or it could be something else. Whatever the case, it appears that any net optimism triggered by Trump’s win has almost completely dissipated.

Update: the cause was almost certainly the failure of ACA repeal. Paul Ryan’s approve/disapprove numbers took a sharp turn at just about the same time.

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Politics & Polls #37: a chat with Robert Costa

March 30th, 2017, 10:06am by Sam Wang

Julian Zelizer and I interviewed Robert Costa, political reporter for the Washington Post. Costa’s been covering national politics for many years. Last Friday, he was the first person that Donald Trump called to talk about the cancellation of the vote on Affordable Care Act repeal. We got into what it was like to get the call, and also lots of other topics, including the coming budget battle and whether Neil Gorsuch will make it onto the Supreme Court.

Link: Politics And Polls #37

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Politics & Polls #36: Science, Politics, and the War on Knowledge

March 23rd, 2017, 4:41pm by Sam Wang

A President who denies that CO2 causes climate change, and who believes the falsehood that vaccines cause autism. A climate change denier at the Environmental Protection Agency. No national science adviser. And deep cuts are proposed to the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, and other research programs. What’s going on?

Julian Zelizer and I interviewed Rush Holt. Holt is a former plasma physicist, a former Congressman…and a five-time Jeopardy winner. So he is well-equipped to talk about facts and science. Now he’s CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a premier scientific society in the United States. He had a lot to say about what I call the War on Knowledge.

Link: Politics And Polls #36

→ 3 CommentsTags: U.S. Institutions

Politics & Polls #35: Intellectual Foundations of the Trumpist Movement

March 19th, 2017, 3:32pm by Sam Wang

In the summer of 2015, Julius Krein started an online blog called the Journal of American Greatness. A bit tongue-in-cheek at the time, it has morphed into something more serious: a journal called American Affairs. Julian Zelizer and I find out from Krein what he thinks are the defensible intellectual pillars of Trumpism. Amazingly, one of them rhymes with “Shmocialized Schmedicine.” Listen!


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Politics & Polls #34: How (Ab)normal is the Trump presidency?

March 9th, 2017, 10:08am by Sam Wang

We’re almost halfway through Trump’s first 100 days in office. There’s been a lot of heat, noise – and executive orders. But not legislation. Is this abnormal? Or is it par for the course? Julian Zelizer and I drill into these questions, inspired by a recent article in The Upshot. Listen!


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Politics & Polls #33: Trade in a Trumpian World

March 7th, 2017, 2:28am by Sam Wang

Julian Zelizer and I Sam Wang interviewed Michael Froman. Ambassador Froman served in President Obama’s cabinet as the U.S. Trade Representative from June 2013 to January 2017. We had a vivid discussion about what trade agreements do – and don’t – accomplish. In what was probably my favorite moment in the interview, he held up his smartphone (you can’t see it of course) and said that without free trade, the phone would cost $2,500.

Such a vivid argument was missing during the 2016 Presidential campaign. But you get to hear it on Politics and Polls!


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Homeland Security Memo on Actual Sources of Terrorism

February 26th, 2017, 7:02am by Sam Wang

The memo is here. Based on analysis of actual identified threats and incidents relevant to the U.S., the top seven nations are Pakistan, Somalia, Bangladesh, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iraq, and Uzbekistan. Although all but two (Cuba and Ethiopia) are predominantly-Muslim countries, there is not much overlap with the countries named in the Muslim travel ban. For instance, Iran and Syria are not on this list.

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Politics & Polls #32: Israel and Palestine

February 23rd, 2017, 8:28pm by Sam Wang

Almost every U.S. president has struggled to broker a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. A two-state solution was already looking fleeting. What can we expect to see from President Donald Trump? In Politics & Polls, George W. Bush’s Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer, joined Julian Zelizer and me to take a hard look at Israel policy…and its baroque domestic politics.


(P.S. don’t ask me what happened to Episode #31 – I think we’re releasing them a little out of order!)

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Coding for Journalists

February 22nd, 2017, 11:27pm by Sam Wang

A crash course in Python for journalists who wish to scrape data. Intriguing!

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Arnold Schwarzenegger breaks down gerrymandering

February 22nd, 2017, 10:56am by Sam Wang

Schwarzenegger gives an amusing and substantively sound take on gerrymandering:

His solution is a citizens’ commission to take redistricting out of the hands of legislators. As I have analyzed (see page 1296), the California Redistricting Commission has done a good job of creating competitive races where none existed before.

A commission-based approach has the advantage that it can potentially address a wide variety of offenses: partisan gerrymanders, uncompetitive districts, and racial packing. The key is to write the law with care. For example, in combating partisan gerrymandering, specifying compact districts is not as useful as it sounds unless partisan symmetry is also included as a criterion.

Another approach is to go through the courts. In this domain, an important issue is partisan gerrymandering, where levels of representation are distorted. Cases in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Maryland are percolating through the courts, with at least one of those cases (Wisconsin) likely to hit the Supreme Court in the fall.

If you’re interested in this topic, next Thursday and Friday there’s a major conference on partisan redistricting, at Duke University. If you’re in the area, register and attend!

→ 4 CommentsTags: governors · Redistricting · U.S. Institutions